wikiHow to Become a Coroner

Three Methods:Becoming a Deputy CoronerDeciding Between Coroner and Medical ExaminerPursuing Higher Education to Become a Medical Examiner

Although coroners and medical examiners are often thought of as being the same, coroners are a distinctly different office. Qualifications and hiring practices vary greatly from place to place. In some places, gaining an entry-level position requires few prerequisites, while in others you will more or less need the same training and education as a medical examiner.

Method 1
Becoming a Deputy Coroner

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    Apply for a deputy coroner position. Chief coroners usually have to have previous experience in death investigation (or specialized certification that requires the same). Deputy coroners, on the other hand, may only need to meet a handful of far less stringent prerequisites. Apply for an entry-level position first.[1] Exact prerequisites may differ between states, counties, and municipalities, but at a minimum you will need a high school diploma or GED. Other requirements may include:[2]
    • Valid driver’s license
    • Physical exam
    • Drug/alcohol test
    • Criminal background check
    • College degree[3]
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    Be professional in your interview. Be aware that, as a deputy coroner, you will be expected to interact with other agencies and contractors, families of the diseased, witnesses, and officers of the court.[4] Anticipate that your interviewer will be assessing your ability to do these tasks based on how you present yourself in the interview. Put your best foot forward by doing the following:[5]
    • Take care of your physical appearance. Groom yourself well. Dress professionally–in this case, as you would for a court appearance.
    • Listen carefully. Prove your ability to collect and remember important information by paying close attention to what your interviewer says.
    • Watch your body language. Make sure you sit and stand up straight. Maintain direct eye contact. Shake hands firmly but not aggressively.
    • Use the right terminology. Speak in professional terms. Avoid slang that may offend people or display insensitivity to the nature of the job.
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    Complete your probationary period. Receive hands-on training that may last a year or more. Expect to work under intense supervision during this period. Duties that you will perform may include but are not limited to:[6]
    • Identifying victims.
    • Informing family of victim’s death.
    • Researching victim’s medical history.
    • Investigating scenes.
    • Interviewing witnesses.
    • Coordinating with other offices and/or contractors.
    • Testifying in court.
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    Receive certification. At some point during or after your probationary period, you will probably need to pass the National Police Officer Selection Test (POST). This is a general exam given to professionals working in law enforcement. You will also likely need to apply for certification as a death investigator through organizations like the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI). Afterward, you will have to take and pass the Registry Examination. However, requirements vary by state, county, and/or municipalities.[7]
    • POST exams test your skills in such areas as math, grammar, writing, and reading skills.[8]
    • To apply for the Registry Examination, you must provide the ABMDI with professional references, as well as notarized proof that you have worked a minimum of 640 hours as a death investigator for a coroner or medical examiner.
    • All 640 hours must be completed within one jurisdiction. If you move in the meantime, you must complete a total of 640 hours with your new employer.[9]
    • Registry Examinations test your ability to investigate deaths, communicate with families and other agencies, and handle evidence, plus your knowledge of science, ethics, and law.[10]

Method 2
Deciding Between Coroner and Medical Examiner

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    the difference between the two offices. Although these two positions are similar in some ways, they differ from each other considerably. While the duties and prerequisites for a medical examiner may be more consistent from one locality to the next, those of a coroner vary a great deal.[11] Know the difference between the two to decide which position adheres the most to your ambition.
    • Medical examiners are typically appointed. To be appointed, you need to be a licensed physician with a specialization in forensic pathology. Your primary purpose would be performing autopsies when needed and disclosing your conclusions to law enforcement.
    • Coroners may be elected or appointed.[12] Depending on local laws, you may need to have the same qualifications and perform the same duties as a medical examiner. Or you may serve as more of an administrative head who contracts outside help, in which case the qualifications for your office may require less medical training.[13]
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    Research local laws and hiring processes. For any particular place where you wish to find employment, find out what prerequisites are demanded by the state, county, and municipality. Know what higher education, previous experience, and specialized training is required for that particular office.[14] Determine whether you will have to run for office or simply apply for the job.[15] Find out if your state even offers coroner positions.[16]
    • States mandating that you must be a physician: Kansas; Louisiana; Minnesota; Ohio.
    • States demanding that you receive specialized training: Alabama; Colorado; Georgia; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Mississippi; Montana; Nebraska; Pennsylvania; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; West Virginia; Wyoming
    • States without coroner offices: Alaska; Arizona; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Florida; Iowa; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Utah; Vermont; Virginia
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    Consider becoming a medical examiner. If you are serious about pursuing death investigation as a lifelong career, improve your chances of finding well-paid employment by becoming a medical examiner. Whether a chief coroner position is filled by appointment or election, set yourself apart from other candidates with an impressive resume that is most relevant to the job in question. Increase your mobility with the necessary prerequisites to find employment elsewhere should you fail to be hired for a specific office.

Method 3
Pursuing Higher Education to Become a Medical Examiner

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    Start early. Begin your journey as early as high school. Research undergraduate and graduate schools that offer the best science and medical programs. Find out what they require for acceptance of applicants, including but not limited to: grades, activities, and volunteer work. Plan your high school career accordingly.[17]
    • Pursue courses such as biology, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, first aid, and health.
    • Apply for Advanced Placement courses, particularly in science and math, if your school offers them.
    • Take college prep courses and tests.
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    Earn a bachelor’s degree. Once you enroll in a four-year college or university, pursue a Bachelor of Science degree, preferably in pre-medicine. If you are already well on your way to obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, be sure to fulfill and excel at all of your requisite courses in the sciences.[18] Fill your free electives with as many related subjects (biology, chemistry, etc) as you can, or, if possible, double-major in pre-medicine or another science to improve your chances of advancing to medical school and/or being hired as a coroner in the future.
    • Decide a major. While some schools specifically offer “pre-med” as a major, others do not. Biology and chemistry majors are often pursued in absence of one.[19] Though a science degree will better prepare you for med school, the exact nature of your major is less important than your performance, so whatever you major in, excel at it.[20]
    • Challenge yourself. Even if you are able to cash in an AP credit earned in high school and thus skip a required course in college, take the course anyway. Cover the material over again to prepare yourself for future courses and tests. material that may not have been covered in your high school class. Stand out as someone who is willing to skip the easy path when you apply to med school later on.[21]
    • Get an advisor. Although you may not technically need one in your first or second year, still meet with one as soon as possible. Map out a timeline for you to follow regarding which courses to take and when, prepping for the MCATS, and improving your future resumes and applications with plenty of volunteer- and research work.[22]
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    Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree and a high GPA, take studying and prepping for the MCAT very seriously. Aim to score a 30 or more to improve your chances of being accepted into a medical school.[23] If needed, take it multiple times.[24]
    • You may take the MCAT three times in one testing year, four times in two back-to-back testing years, and seven times in total.
    • Medical schools may consider your highest score, your most recent score, or your average score.
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    Complete medical school.[25] Take required courses in anatomy as well as medical and administrative practice. Complete the mandatory hours of on-the-job training and clerkship (approximately 100 hours). Specialize in forensic pathology to how to identify the causes of death.[26]
    • Make sure the school’s program has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
    • Specializing in forensic pathology will often involve you training and working with local coroners and/or medical examiners. Use this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the job itself, from personal stories of how these professionals obtained their positions, and make connections.
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    Complete your residency. After you finish medical school, join a residency program to finish your training.[27] Residencies may last up to three years.[28] Work with coroner and medical examiner’s offices to earn personal certification with the American Board of Pathology to become an officially recognized pathologist.[29]
    • You can become certified for either Clinical Pathology (CP), Anatomical Pathology (AP), or both (AP/CP).

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